Buzzzzzzz…. flutter flutter……………… tweet tweet……. aaah, the soothing sound of the British countryside – bees buzzing, butterflies butterflying and birds tweeting. But – make the most of it, folks, these sounds may not be so familiar and common in years to come.
Man is slowly destroying the countryside with intensive farming methods, use of pesticides and herbicides, and building. 98% of Britain’s wildflower meadows have disappeared – only 1,000 hectares are left. Our need for more land for food and housing has had a catastrophic effect on wildflowers and wildlife.
The ploughing up of meadows has destroyed swathes of native wildflowers over recent decades – this destruction also has a knock-on effect on the wildlife that depends on these wildflowers and habitats for survival. The brown hare, harvest mouse and Adonis blue butterfly depend on meadow and grassland habitats for their survival – decline in these habitats has resulted in a dramatic decline in their numbers.
Some species only have one wildflower as their sole food plant – if that flower becomes extinct, so does the species. For example, Kidney Vetch is the sole food plant of the Small Blue butterfly. Without Kidney Vetch there is no Small Blue. Similarly, the Duke of Burgundy butterfly is very rare and depends on Wild Primrose as its food source.
Much has also been made of the crisis in our bee populations. Bees also need nectar-rich wildflowers to aid their survival. Less food plants for bees means less bees, which means less pollination and less food for us. Since the start of the 21st century two bee species have become extinct in the UK.
I have had the pleasure of going along to the reintroduction of one of them (the Short-haired Bumblebee) at Dungeness on a couple of occasions. Each year the Project reintroduces queens collected in Sweden and now, after 4 years, the process is a big success with numbers growing each year.
What a magnificent sight, seeing more than 50 of these lovely flying machines flitting off to the swathes of Yellow Flag Iris and starting to feed once released! We have also donated 80 Gromats to the Project which have been planted to help bee populations on Romney Marsh.
A number of our wildflowers are so scarce they are protected under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act and are on the Red Data list as endangered or close to extinction, for example, the pretty Deptford Pink. To dig these up and any other wildflowers is illegal.
British wildflowers are beautiful – and they have such endearing names. Who could resist a few Weaselsnouts in their garden or some orange Fox and Cubs! We also need to spread the word, to encourage people to grow wildflowers and not dreadful, blousy double flowers or sterile bedding plants.
These have no nectar and, hence, no wildlife value. Our mission is to get as many people as possible growing wildflowers, and we hope your business feels that way too.
The bees and butterflies will love you for it!